IRVING, Texas—As an Eagle Scout, Robert Gates learned how to get out of tough knots, a skill which came in handy when tasked with unwinding the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as secretary of defense under President Obama.
The troops Gates now oversees as the newly elected president of the Boy Scouts of America have been slower to officially accept gay individuals in their ranks, leading him to suggest that “Gay Scoutmasters resign their BSA membership and enlist in the U.S. military,” where they would be welcomed with open arms.
“Unlike your straight counterparts, your duty to God and country may not involve basketry, leatherwork, or coin collecting,” Gates told gay men and women interested in assuming leadership positions. “Trade in your merit badges for medals, swap out your BB gun for an M-16, and learn how to drive a tank instead of a pinewood derby,” implored Gates.
“The U.S. military has a different definition of being ‘morally straight,’ ” he added, “one that cares less about whom you love and more about your love of country.”
Referring to the BSA’s recently enacted half measure allowing for the inclusion of gay youth while still barring “open and avowed homosexuals” from leading Scouts, Gates insists he had been “prepared to go further than the decision that was made.”
His own beliefs are beside the point, claims Gates, who also served as the director of Central Intelligence in the 1990s. “I couldn’t ask our more conservative membership to evolve faster on this issue any more than I could convince a Neanderthal to cook his meal in a microwave, rather than over an open fire.”
In contrast to the CIA or the military, where Gates “could give an order and people would follow it,” he is reluctant to rock the boat and risk losing more Scouts and sponsors from the primarily volunteer organization.
Gates worries that any attempt to prematurely force the acceptance of gay Scoutmasters “would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement.”
He suggests the organization would be “looking at an all-out civil war that Boy Scouts are wholly unprepared to fight, even after attending last summer’s self-defense course at Camp Lumpkin-Cattahoochee Scout Reservation.”
“They can have their arts and crafts,” said Peter Schmidt, a 32-year-old gay man and father of two Scouts who has proudly led Troup 136 for the past decade with the help of his longtime partner. “I’m going to serve where I know I’m wanted, as a Marine.”